GW2: Bouncy missions

“All right,” our guild coordinator said. “Tonight we’re going to be doing bouncy missions.”

“Excuse me, what?”

“Bouncy missions. You know, find those NPCs with a green icon over their heads and kill them.”

“…do you mean bounty missions?”

“I have a cold, don’t mock me!”

“I’m going to mock a little, sorry.”

I love our plucky little Guild Wars 2 guild, I really do. They’re a really funny bunch to run with and I don’t much mind what we’re doing as long as we’re doing it together. The “bouncy” mission was a quick bust, at least for me, as I was too slow in getting there. One of these days I’ll really need to pony up for the expansions so I can get my glider and mount. I’m still very much a land speed Asura.

Oh! Speaking of Asura, I changed things up and logged onto my original Engineer for the guild night. This was mostly because she’s the only character I have who has 100% map completion, which gave me every waypoint I needed.

The choice ended up being a good one. I got oohed and ahhed over as a cute little thing — I don’t see a lot of Asura, and most of our guild were tree elves — and soon enough I remembered how much fun this class was. Pistols? Shields? FLAMETHROWERS? How did I forget the flamethrower? Must have been a sharp blow to the head.

Following that, we embarked on a guild race. This is yet more game content I’d never done before. The mission turned us into skittering spiders who had to complete a race circuit without being killed (being squashed is easy, but at least you can try, try again until the timer runs out). We got classic spider abilities, like flinging webs, creating holographic decoys, and sonar. What we did not have is, you know, the ability to crawl up walls. That might have been useful in this mostly-vertical challenge.

Lots of death, laughter, and bad jokes ensued. One of our guild mates kept muttering, “skitter skitter skitter” on Discord, which for some reason cracked me up.

If you’re wondering, I died plenty enough to keep my ego at safe levels for the week to come. Eventually I used the strategy of “follow the crowd of spiders who know the way to the end and can also serve as a buffer between you and death should anything angry appear in our path.” And it worked, for I crossed the finish line with minutes to spare and received my just reward: a classic Guild Wars 2 chest with lots of nothing really special inside.

I swear, this game needs a good loot table.


Guild Wars 2: Puzzling out a dungeon

As I continue to acclimate to the Mesmer in Guild Wars 2 and experiment around with her different abilities, I’m rediscovering all sorts of things that started to fade into distant memories. These include the slickness of the UI, the general uselessness of loot, the tight animation/movement, and the joy that is BeeDog.

Oh, and I’m also being reminded that this game really does facilitate social events and challenges. I think I’ve ended up bumping into more players as of late than I do in most of my other MMOs, mostly because the design of GW2 is such that it puts out events that draw players in like ants coming for a delicious cookie.

Our guild has a regular night in which everyone gets together to tackle various things in the game, and when I logged in for the first one, we were coming together to fight a fire elemental and get some extra loot. After that, we headed off for a guild puzzle — something that I’ve only done perhaps one time before in my history with this game.

This was interesting. This “puzzle dungeon” was more about navigating environmental obstacles than fighting (or speed-running past) mobs, and most of us had never been in this particular one. I forget the name, but it took place in an icy cave where the man-made structures were falling down and on the verge of collapse. It gave the place a really skewed perspective with lots of heights and harrowing jumps.

Oh yeah. That’s another thing I’m remembering. Guild Wars 2 loves its jumping puzzles. Sigh.

Anyway, as a group, we had to figure out how to progress, especially through certain rooms that were set up as elaborate puzzles. The trickiest of these for us was one where we had to shoot icicles down to form a bridge to cross. It took us most of the first run to figure out how to do it, and in the second run, we came at it quickly and wrapped it up within a minute or so. That second run got bogged down in a later room, but on try three, we managed to reach the end before the timer ran out (there’s a 30-minute limit on these).

The loot was… Guild Wars 2 loot, I guess. It filled up my bags with stuff that I don’t need at the moment or would just break down for materials and store. But the group accomplishment felt great, and I genuinely enjoyed doing something together. Reminded me a lot of Dungeons and Dragons Online’s group dungeons, especially the ones where puzzles feature prominently.

Guild Wars 2 and the bubble wrap satisfaction

Learn from me and save yourself some future embarrassment by never saying “That’s it, I’m done with this MMO, and I’m never coming back.” Because, guaranteed, you’ll be back wearing some hoodie and sunglasses like you’re in the doofus protection program.

I hadn’t really thought about Guild Wars 2 for a long time — I think the last time I even dipped into this game was June 2017 — but the other week I’m on the MOP podcast and Bree is talking about it, and I blurt out that I think that me and this game are finally through. For good. For realsies.

That’s when God sends a memo to his Department of Ironies and asks for direct intervention in my interest. Because THIS week, Tina came on the show and was talking up the game, and before you know it, I’ve reinstalled the game and made a new character and found a guild and I HAVE NO INTEGRITY.

But I do have purple-pink butterflies, because I’m piloting a Mesmer. I waffled on a few different classes and races for a start-over (it feels too long to take up the mantle of one of my former characters), and the Mesmer eventually won out. It’s a class I haven’t stuck with to the cap, yet I’ve always loved the aesthetic and odd-class-out status. Plus, I’m all about that fencing fantasy, so I decided to give it another try.

Race-wise, I went with human because it ended up being the default. I’m not going to do Plant Elves, for obvious reasons, and Charr are just ten kinds of awkward-looking. I think I’m well past my infatuation with the Asura (nowadays I kind of think they’re creepy), which left me with humans and Plus-Sized humans.

So meet Eoan Echo. I wanted a slightly mystical-sounding name that worked in the word “Echo,” which is an awesome and unfortunately far-too-popular word for naming conventions. “Eoan” means something pertaining to the dawn or east, and I like how those two words flow together to sound effervescent.

As I logged in, I put out a call for guild suggestions (it’s been so long that I’m no longer in any of my old ones). Turns out that there’s a guild full of bloggers and Twitter friends called Kamikaze Runners, so I got plugged into that chatty bunch and started having my fun. Well, having my fun AFTER I transferred all of my stuff and new bags and my infinite harvesters that I spent too much money on back in the day. And all of the birthday gifts that I collected. Might as well hit the ground running!

Past that, I just enjoyed Guild Wars 2 the way I did back at launch: through map completion. I forgot how relaxing and enjoyable it is to just jog around the place ticking off vistas and hearts and waypoints. It’s kind of like bubble wrap, with that mindless popping of objectives without any larger narrative or pressure. Sometimes this is exactly what I need from an end-of-day gaming session, and darn it if it isn’t satisfying to see the progress being made.

And even though I do have enough experience scrolls and boosters to insta-level me to 80 many times over at this point, I’m going to level normally. There’s really no rush to get to 80 right this second, especially if I’m doing completion, and I enjoy the little milestones of the leveling process. I don’t have any of the expansions (still), so doing the lazy leveling route might show me if I really want to invest in those at some point or if this is a temporary fling.

At least I have my Bee Dog miniature. And my cool outfits and dyes. And all the butterflies I can stomach.

Battle Bards Episode 123: Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire

With eagerness in their hearts, the Battle Bards rush toward another Guild Wars 2 soundtrack, ready to bask in the aural glory of this MMO that’s known for its incredible music. But hark! What is this Path of Fire? Join us for a listen through a soundtrack that one unnamed soundtrack reviewer has termed “bland and generic.” If that isn’t a back-of-the-box quote, we don’t know what is!

Episode 123 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “On the Banks of the Elon,” “Highland Hares,” and “Undead of Elona”)
  • “Main Theme”
  • “Sands of the Djinn”
  • “The Bounty Hunter”
  • “Legendary Ascent”
  • “Pricklepath Hollow”
  • “Welcome to Amnoon”
  • “Sands of Chaos (Percussion Version)”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener Notes: Minimalistway
  • Jukebox Picks: “Main Theme” from Pharaoh, “Great Bustle” from Lost Sphear, and “Green Hill Zone Act 1” from Sonic Mania
  • Outro (“Veins of the Dragon”)

6 MMOs that shaped my gaming in 2017

2017 was an interesting year for my MMO gaming career. It wasn’t really marked by any super-huge new releases; in fact, the year was pretty anemic for new MMOs, period. We’re still seeing lots in development, but only a handful of big budget, big studio projects, and most of those are for the future. Instead, this year was mostly about returning to old favorites and continuing on in my adventures.

I am really glad that I’ve been doing a monthly “gaming goals” article, because it helps me track what I was playing over the course of the year. This was the first year where I fully did that, and it is neat to look back at my aspirations vs. realities while also following the threads of my gaming life. So with that in mind, here are the six MMOs that dominated my gaming time this year:

1. World of Warcraft

This past spring, I felt the need for a break following a nearly two-year run in the game. I was feeling listless and in need of variety and direction, and I am glad I took the time off. But sandwiched around that break were my continuing journeys in Legion, my endless experimentation with alts, my progress as an Undead Warlock (the highest I’ve ever leveled one to date!), and some excitement over Battle for Azeroth and Classic. I’m ending this year mostly focusing on bringing my Gnome Hunter up to speed while giving equal time to other titles.

2. Dungeons and Dragons Online

DDO was really the surprise experience this year for me. When I went back to dabble a little bit in it, little did I know that the DDO bug would bite me hard once more. I should have remembered how much I was in love with this game back in the day, and it’s only grown since then. I’ve had some amazing quests so far with my Gnome Artificer, although I still haven’t really found a guild that’s very active or involved. Hoping to change that in the new year, and also to see the game’s expansions as I start to get up into the double digits.

3. Lord of the Rings Online

This was pretty much a steadfast experience, taking my Lore-master through the remainder of Gondor and then finally into Mordor with the fall’s expansion. While I did try out some alts (Minstrel, Hunter), most all of my time was given to the LM. Mordor proved to be a tough slog with only a handful of interesting and engaging moments, and my enthusiasm for playing started to sap away by the end of the year. Still, I’m excited about Northern Mirkwood for 2018, so there’s hope left!

4. Secret World Legends

I had to say farewell to The Secret World and my character of five years this spring, and while that definitely was a hard blow, at least Legends injected some new life into this faltering title. Taking a new character through the game and getting her back up to where I had left off pretty much consumed my attention for the remainder of 2017, and hopefully by the time the new year clicks over, I’ll be ready for season two.

5. Star Trek Online

I think I had about a two- or three-month run back in STO, doing some of the newer content while dusting off my carrier and fleshing out missions I hadn’t run yet. It was… fine, I guess, but definitely not as memorable as I was hoping nor as long-lasting as trips back to the game in the past.

6. Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 edges out FFXIV on this list by virtue of time, if nothing else. I put in about two months in this game vs. one in FFXIV, but both ultimately conveyed to me that I just wasn’t in the mindset to come back to either. There are so many things that I enjoy about GW2 but also so many things that really drive me nuts about this game that I can’t settle back into what used to be an MMO gaming mainstay for me.

Honorable mention: Elder Scrolls Online

Tossing this into this list because I should mention ESO for a few reasons. I really did want to get more into this game than I did, at one point vowing to make this my main summer title (which worked out as well as my plans usually do). But the allure of housing and the new expansion did get me to put in a few sessions, and it remains very, very high on my list of games to come back to soon.

Thoughts on the Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire reveal

With some pleasant time sunk into Guild Wars 2 this year, I’ve been in a self-proclaimed holding pattern of play and interest until the team revealed what’s going on with the expansion. I told myself that I’d look at the reveal with an open mind and then judge whether or not it would be worth getting back into and finishing up the previous expansion and season 3 to prepare.

First things first, I’ll give it to ArenaNet for a well-done expansion announcement. The studio primed its audience well, built the hype, and made the announcement fairly soon after the last episode of season 3 was released. Plus, not a lot to steal its thunder that day. It went over a lot better than the Heart of Thorns announcement debacle a couple of years back.

So what’s the deal? As the leaks a few months ago suggested, Path of Fire is a Crystal Desert/Elona-themed expansion that’s bringing in mounts as its big new feature. Five large zones, nine new elite specs, and an angry god returned to ravage the land.

The price is incredibly reasonable: $30 for the base edition, which is way cheaper than most MMO expansions these days (bar the free ones). $50 if you want to bundle with Heart of Thorns, which I’m sure surprised some people who were loudly advising people to hold off buying HoT this year an anticipation of getting it for free when the new expansion was announced.

But did it send me into a hype frenzy? Um… no, not really. I’m honestly very apathetic toward this expansion, which means that I’m probably not going to be on board with it over the next couple of months. It’s like ArenaNet is trying to hit all of my “most hated” zone buttons lately with jungles, volcanoes, and deserts, and I do not have these incredibly fond memories that some Guild Wars 1 players do for the Crystal Desert. Balthazar looks kind of silly as a villain, kind of an over-the-top He-Man bad guy (at least he isn’t a dragon, but there is a smattering of dragon talk in the reveal to keep that thread alive). The elite specs aren’t really doing anything for me either.

What’s perhaps most surprising is how much this expansion is “more of the same” for Guild Wars 2. The only truly new feature is mounts, which welcome to the MMO club on that, GW2. No new classes? No new races? No personal housing? I know everyone’s riding high on the excitement about this, but if anything, Path of Fire initially comes off as being less innovative and more cautious than Heart of Thorns.

That said, I’m sure it’ll be great and a welcome content injection for players. Lots of stuff to do, another story to enjoy, and hopefully wonderful music for me to accumulate at some point. But it’s not going to top my interest in some other titles right now, so that’s that, I guess.

Guild Wars 2: Retreading the past

My current reluctance to log in and play Guild Wars 2 comes from having content that I don’t especially want to do in front of me instead of the content that I do. Honestly, I’d rather be either doing zone clears or progressing into some of the story that I haven’t seen yet, but I feel compelled to wrap up Season 2 before anything else. Want to get everything wrapped up all nice and tidy-like before the next expansion comes out.

And here’s the thing: Season 2 wasn’t bad. Not Season 1 disjointed-and-grindy bad. The episodes are interesting, the storytelling and characters got bumped up a notch, and there are some genuinely clever locales. But it’s all the sort of thing I’d rather have only done once and never again, rather than being excited about repeating it.

One of my favorite cutscenes. Just really great blocking as a short silent film. My only quibble is that the ghost sister looks really weird, like she has doll makeup on or something.

Oh! Had some gems burning a hole in my pocket, spent them on aviator sunglasses. No buttflaps and floppy hats for me. I look like space police now.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand — the combination of very long story instances, odd mechanics, and having pushed through all of this in the past is less an attractor and more of a detractor for my interest. Maybe if the instances were broken up more? Sitting through a 45 minute instance like Hidden Arcana and having to master some brand-new techniques is very attention-intensive and exhausting in the end. Not terribly, but when I knew exactly how long it would take, my mind kept thinking about what was ahead of me and was left to do instead of just enjoying the moment.

I need to grasp and cling to the moment in these games. I’m bad at that, constantly running down a checklist of everything that needs to be accomplished to get where I want to go — usually all of the way through the main storyline to get to the current spot where everyone else is. Having a whole bunch ahead of me can feel oppressive if I let it. But when I just dial it back, get into a little groove, and focus on the present, it gets more enjoyable. And I know that if I keep taking steps forward, I’ll get to where I want to be in the end.